Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Robert Williams' Crash Course in Extreme Living



Robert Williams had already survived the worst of the 2001 Twelve Miles of Hell mountain biking race: The Kelvinator. It’s a section of side-by-side large granite boulders and multiple tricky drop-offs in Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains – a jostling, proven bone-snapper. It’s where the race EMTs hang out.

Plunging in, Williams bounced and scraped his way through the Kelvinator – so named after old refrigerators’ tendency to shake and rattle in their compressors’ last gasps. When he emerged from what’s been called the most brutal ride this side of the Rockies, he felt ecstatic.

Ten glorious minutes later, though, he let his patience run out. It took his luck with it.

Descending on a footpath-wide dirt trail, he found himself trapped behind two slowpokes. Opportunities to pass weren’t promising, but he didn’t want to go this slow. Williams tightened his handlebar grip. He shot forward to pass.

“That’s when my front wheel dropped into a ravine and launched me off the front,” he said.

He slammed head-first, at 20 mph, into a rock. The granite crunched his top four front teeth. A couple still dangled in his mouth. After a brief daze caused by a mild concussion, and spitting blood, he grappled his bike. He scrambled up the ravine, threw his leg over the seat and hit the trail again. He finished the race with a red badge of courage circling his mouth and missing pieces of three teeth that bleach in the sun on the trail to this day.

His misfortune and tenacity earned him the annual “Big Bawls” award, given to the most severely damaged athlete in the race. You might call Robert “Crash” Williams an extreme athlete. You might also call him a little crazy.



Williams, 51, grew up in OKC a few miles from Lake Hefner. He graduated from John Marshall in 1979. He wasn’t a jock. His parents, though, especially his mom, instilled in him the belief that there was nothing he couldn’t do or become.

He took it to heart. He ran a sailboat rental/training shop at Lake Hefner in his senior year and in his freshman days at UCO. That entrepreneurial spirit eventually led him to selling yachts in California for half a decade and launching handfuls of businesses throughout the years.

Williams has a successful salesman’s personality. He’s owned a car dealership, coffee shop and an insurance company. He’s outgoing, brimming with confidence, and his good looks and fitness instantly verify his first-impression bona fides. Those traits have served him well.

He’s now a commercial real estate sales associate with InterWest Realty. One phone call could be worth $20,000 or $40,000 in commissions on multi-million-dollar deals. Those calls could be ones he might have missed in his former endeavor – as owner of Adventure Sports Promotions.

From 2000 to 2004, he promoted and rounded up resources to stage around 70 adventure races in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas. Adventure races are akin to triathlons. But instead of road bikes, racers use off-road bikes. Running is done on trails rather than roads. Instead of swimming, competitors paddle in a canoe or kayak. Williams’ role was to fill up a huge trailer with life jackets, kayaks, paddles, etc., and head to race sites to set up the course.

Adventure racing, however, has twists. Super-athletes may be the fastest, but can they communicate well enough to guide one another blindly through a “minefield” of objects that force them to start again if they hit one? One of Williams’ favorites was letting the air out of the competitors’ bike tires: The serious, experienced riders would typically start replacing their tubes. Others would figure out that everyone had flat tires and start pumping.

Williams crashed into the adrenaline life basically out of the blue when he was 38. A friend, Danny Albert, showed up at his work with the spandex and bright-color uniform of a cyclist. He challenged Williams to ride the biking trails at Lake Stanley Draper.

“That one event literally changed my life,” he said. “I didn’t run, or bike, or anything. Obviously I had that in me, but I just never experienced it. Once I did, I just absolutely got hooked.”

Within a week, he exchanged his rudimentary-level mountain bike for a model that cost about $1,000. Four months later, he was pumping pedals in his first 24-hour bike race. “I went from smoking cigars and drinking every night to hardly drinking at all.”

He still lives that way today. He’s competed in more than 100 races with names like the “Hell and Back 440 (miles),” the Vail Ultra 100 and the Flint Hills Death Ride. He’s not limited to cycling. He has ridden a bull, bungee jumped, skydived, learned advanced scuba diving and hang glided.

He’s not finished. His to-do list includes qualifying as a parachute BASE jumper: leaping off a Building, Antenna, Span and Earth form. “The antenna (held up by rigid wire cables) scares heck out of me,” he said. He’s also aiming for shark diving without a cage, summiting a 14,000-foot frigid mountain and riding a bike coast-to-coast.

“With the young one we have this thing,” he said. “I go, ‘Who are you?’ ‘I’m a Williams,’ she says. I go, ‘What can a
Williams do?’ She says, ‘A Williams can do anything!’”

So what makes Robert Williams march to the beat of an out-there drum? It’s not necessarily inspiration from his own accomplishments. When he engineered adventure races, the top-notch, disciplined competitors didn’t leave a lasting mark. He doesn’t have any sports heroes. He fondly recalls a mother and daughter, though, who wrote him and said they were 40 pounds overweight and determined to finish his race in Kansas City. They finished dead last, and in danger of no one ever noticing.

“We’re taking the tents down and they’re coming across the finish line,” Williams said. “People there were cheering them on. It was just so great to see people figure out that there is nothing you can’t do. They felt like they were coming in first place.”

Taking risks is part of Williams’ DNA. “I’m one of those people who has to have continual challenge. If my career’s not challenging me, I’ll create a new career. If people aren’t challenging me, I’ll find new people to hang around with. I just have to continually be challenged in whatever it is.”

Like his parents before him, he’s passing on the legacy of unlimited horizons. He’s the father of a 19-year-old daughter who excelled in competitive cheerleading. His 6-year-old daughter was introduced to competing in adventure sports at an early age.

“With the young one we have this thing,” he said. “I go, ‘Who are you?’ ‘I’m a Williams,’ she says. I go, ‘What can a Williams do?’ She says, ‘A Williams can do anything!’”

“I’m trying to instill that belief in her because the greatest joy I got from putting on the adventure races was not the rabbits who always took first, second or third, it was the out-of-shape, middle-aged mom and daughter who came in dead last.” 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »You Might Like

Absolute Bedlam

Football is a big, big deal around here, especially if the teams competing both have “Oklahoma” in their names. As longtime rivals the OU Sooners and OSU Cowboys move toward another marquee matchup, Slice takes a look at the history, atmosphere and myriad joys of the madness that is Bedlam.

Happy in the 405

Civic development and housing demand, knockout sunsets and stellar sports franchises and a shared unquenchable spirit … there’s a lot to be grateful for about living in central Oklahoma – and we’re happy for the chance to share some of it with our readers.

Accounting for Taste

A give and take about the joys of parenthood, the value of personal authenticity and setting a goal of being more goal-oriented with star CPA Melissa Prophet.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

May 2019

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Start your Sunday morning by perfecting your practice during our outdoor yoga class. Enjoy the beauty of yoga outdoors in the glow of the Ferris Wheel lights! This class welcomes all levels, from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wheeler Ferris Wheel
1701 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
View map »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

MILLER IN MAY HOME TOUR HIGHLIGHTS CHARACTER AND CHARM The 20th anniversary of Miller's beloved home tour Miller Neighborhood's most popular event is back for 2019… and...

Cost: $10 - $30

Where:
Miller Neighborhood
NW 10th to NW 16th, N Villa to N May
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Miller Neighborhood Association
Telephone: 405.642.5982
Contact Name: Elizabeth Beard

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

OKC's premier chamber orchestra, the Oklahoma Virtuosi, presents their season finale concert.  Concert will include: St. Paul's Suite Op.29 No.2 by Gustav Holst,...

Cost: Free

Where:
21C Hotel
900 W. Main St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Website »

More information

As the first anniversary of her sixth album Conversation With A Ghost approaches in June, Italian-born and Austin-based singer-songwriter Giulia Millanta possesses a...

Cost: $15-$20

Where:
The Blue Door
2805 N. McKinley Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: The Blue Door
Telephone: (405) 524-0738
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Piedmont Airlines will be hosting a Information Session for ramp agent jobs at Embassy Suites in OKC. Please plan to spend up to 3 hours with us, as we will have you fill out applications, listen...

Cost: Free

Where:
Embassy Suites
1815 South Meridian Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73108
View map »


Sponsor: Piedmont Airlines
Telephone: 704-359-2477
Contact Name: Nick Calo
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Watch happy hour turn to golden hour while we fill the air with live music. For 5 consecutive Tuesday evenings, we invite OKC to come out after work to enjoy a variety of food, views,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Chisholm Creek
1316 W Memorial Rd
Oklahoma City, OK  73114
View map »


Sponsor: OkSessions.com
Contact Name: James
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

More than 90 visual artists will line the streets of the Historic Paseo Arts District, selling original artwork in a wide variety of media, from painting and photography to wood and jewelry, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Paseo Arts District
3022 Paseo
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Paseo Arts Association
Telephone: 405-525-2688
Contact Name: Paige Powell
Website »

More information

Enjoy all your favorite activities at the Orr Family Farm for a special price! Admission is only $8 per person on this day only.

Where:
Orr Family Farm
14400 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73170
View map »


Telephone: 405.509.9312
Contact Name: Lauren Daughety

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass this Memorial Day Weekend! Get a full day of fun at Andy Alligator’s Fun Park and Water Park for only $29.99. A Dual Park Pass includes Unlimited Rides &...

Cost: Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass!

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Place
Norman, OK  73072
View map »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags